What are the most boring (and exciting) goalless draws at the Euros?

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Italy;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Italy</a> celebrate their unforgettable win over <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Netherlands;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Netherlands</a> in the Euro 2000 semi-final.</span><span>Photograph: kolvenbach/Alamy</span>

“After the Portugal/France game I’m wondering what was the most boring Euro game on record (no goals, fewest shorts on target, fewest corners, etc)?” tweets Nicholas Stuart.

There have been 37 goalless draws in the men’s Euros, including a record six at this year’s tournament. The first was in 1968 when Italy beat the Soviet Union on a coin toss. We can’t find the vital statistics for that one, but Sofascore has detailed data for all the others. We’ve based the answer on their “big chances” metric, even though we’re not wholly sure what that entails. Where the games are level, shots on target and then total shots are the tiebreaker.

There are only three matches with no big chances and fewer than five shots on target. The first is actually quite memorable: France 0-0 England at Euro 92. It was England’s second goalless draw in the group and, though it was a dog of a game, it lingers for two reasons: Basile Boli putting the head on Stuart Pearce behind the referee’s back, and an affronted Pearce almost breaking the crossbar with a subsequent free-kick. But despite the presence of Jean-Pierre Papin, Eric Cantona, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker, there was very little goalmouth excitement.

There were two shots on target in that game, veritable riches compared to our top/bottom two: Norway 0-0 Slovenia in 2000 and Romania 0-0 France in 2008. The first was the final group match and therefore existed in tandem with a phenomenally exciting game. For 95 minutes Norway thought a goalless draw was enough for them to reach the quarter-finals, and then Spain’s Alfonso turned John Motson’s legs to jelly.

France v Romania was the archetype of the cagey opening game. Here are a few highlights from Tom Lutz’s liveblog.

49 min: For the first time in a year or so, Malouda breaks dangerously down the left. He jinks into the box but his shot is somewhere over the Alps as I type.

66 min: Toulalalalalan ventures into the box, he shouldn’t have bothered his shot is so pitiful it could qualify for charitable status.

Full-time: That’s it, France did a little less than nothing and didn’t really seem to be too bothered about it.

According to Sofascore, there was just one shot on target in those two games. But Norway v Slovenia had fewer shots overall, 18, so that is statistically the dullest game in men’s Euros history. The whole thing’s on Dailymotion if you fancy.

As for the most exciting, we’d like to nominate the Euro 2000 semi-final, when 10-man Italy eliminated co-hosts the Netherlands. The Dutch missed two penalties in normal time and three more in the shootout, including one for the books from Jaap Stam. They had 71% possession – unprecedented in those days – and 31 shots overall. In a retrospective feature, Opta gave the game an xG of 4.09.

Long-shot winners of the Euros

“During the Qatar World Cup you listed the winning teams with the longest pre-tournament odds,” writes John Gillespie. “What about the men’s Euros?”

The longest odds we could find for a men’s World Cup winner involved Italy, who were 18-1 before their triumph in 1982. Italy winning a World Cup is never truly a surprise, though, and there have been more unlikely winners in the European Championship. Three stand out: Czechoslovakia in 1976, Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004.

We couldn’t find odds for Czechoslovakia, though chances are they would have been fairly short as it was a four-team tournament. The Euros had increased to eight teams in 1992; when Denmark replaced Yugoslavia at the last minute, they were installed as seventh favourite at odds of 12-1 (since you asked, Scotland were 25-1). The eventual winners, Portugal, had longer odds (16-1) at the start of Euro 2016.

And so to Greece. “A victory never to be forgotten or fully explained,” wrote the dearly missed Kevin McCarra at the end of the tournament in Portugal, the perfect summary of a deceptively emphatic campaign in which they beat the hosts twice, the holders (France) and the most impressive attacking team (Czech Republic). It has gone down into legend that their pre-tournament odds were 150-1, though the longest we could find during a fairly cursory archive search was 125-1. Either way, it’s by far the most improbable victory.

Here’s a list of the odds for the favourites and winners before every men’s Euros since 1980.

1980 (Hosts: Italy)
West Germany 3-1 (second fav) Favourites Italy 28-10 (lost third-place playoff) Other notable odds Belgium 16-1 (runners-up)

1984 (Hosts: France)
Winners and favourites
France 15-8 Other notable odds Denmark 10-1 (semi-finals)

1988 (Hosts: West Germany)
Netherlands 5-1 (third fav) Favourites West Germany 7-4 (semi-finals) Other notable odds England 9-2 (second fav, lost all three games)

1992 (Hosts: Sweden)
Denmark 12-1 (seventh fav) Favourites Germany 5-2 (runners-up)

1996 (Hosts: England)
Winners and favourites
Germany 9-2 Other notable odds Italy 5-1 (second fav, went out in group stage), Czech Republic 66-1 (beaten finalists), Alan Shearer 12-1 to win Golden Boot

2000 (Hosts: Netherlands and Belgium)
France 5-1 (third fav) Favourites Netherlands 7-2 (semi-finals) Other notable odds England 10-1 (fifth fav, out in group stage), Portugal 25-1 (semi-finals)

2004 (Hosts: Portugal)
Greece 125-1 Favourites France 10-3 (quarter-finals) Other notable odds Italy 9-2 (second fav, out in group stage), Czech Republic 14-1 (joint 7th fav, semi-finals)

2008 (Hosts: Austria and Switzerland)
Spain 11-2 (second fav) Favourites Germany 4-1 (runners-up) Other notable odds Russia 25-1, Turkey 66-1 (both semi-finals)

2012 (Hosts: Poland and Ukraine)
and favourites Spain 11-4 Other notable odds Italy 14-1 (runners-up)

2016 (Hosts: France)
Portugal 16-1 (joint sixth fav) Favourites France 3-1 (runners-up) Other notable odds England 9-1 (fourth fav), Wales 80-1 (semi-finals), Iceland 100-1 (quarter-finals)

2021 (Hosts: multiple)
Italy 11-1 (joint seventh fav) Favourites France 9-2 (quarter-finals) Other notable odds Denmark 28-1 (semi-finals)

Double trouble

“It took 43 matches at Euro 2024 before one player scored twice, Donyell Malen for the Netherlands against Romania,” tweets Federicø. “Has it ever happened that in the entire tournament no player has scored twice?”

Let us all give thanks to Dirk Maas, who has done the research and written the answer. “At men’s senior level, in global and continental tournaments, it has happened five times:

  • AFC Asian Cup 1964

  • Uefa Euro 1968

  • AFC Asian Cup 1984

  • Concacaf Nations League finals 2021

  • Uefa Nations League finals 2023

“There were only four teams in four of those tournaments, so it isn’t a surprise that no players were able to score two goals in the same match. The exception is the AFC Asian Cup 1984, which consisted of 10 teams. The format was a group stage, with two groups of five teams, a semi-final, a third place match and a final. Given there were 24 games in total, it’s remarkable that no player managed to score twice in a match.”

Knowledge archive

“Has there been any match ever, where the scoreline has been more than 1-1 but only one player scored at both ends (for his team as well as for the other team in form of own goals)?” asked Heramb Mayadeo in 2017.

In March 1976, Aston Villa visited Leicester City, and on two separate occasions, Chris Nicholl, their defender, put the home side in front with own goals, the second a belter of a diving header, only to twice haul them back into things with two actual goals. “I asked the referee if I could have the ball,” he told the Birmingham Post on the 30th anniversary of this memorable feat; “‘No,’ the ref said. ‘This is my last match and I am keeping the ball’. Just my luck, I suppose. My first hat-trick in a Villa shirt and I don’t even get the ball!”

Tangentially, on 25 October 1980, Kevin Bond’s own-goal gave Nottingham Forest the lead at Norwich before Kevin Bond’s actual goal earned the home side a draw; then, on 29 October 1980, Kevin Bond’s own goal gave Crystal Palace the lead at Norwich, before Kevin Bond’s actual goal earned the home side a draw.

Finally, in March 1988, Tony Adams became the first and so far only England player to score at both ends as England drew 2-2 with the Netherlands – a trick he repeated at club level in October 1989, arranging a 1-1 draw between Arsenal and Manchester United.


Can you help?

“When France made it into the Euro 2024 semis, was this the farthest a team has gotten in a tournament without one of their players scoring from open play?” asks Alan Terlep.

“The quarter-final against Portugal was France’s fifth game of the tournament. And for four of them – Austria in the opener, the second group game against the Netherlands, the last 16 against Belgium, and the Portugal match – they’ve had to wear their away kit (so 80% of the games). Is this a record? Have any other international teams been unable to wear their home colours more?” – Derek Robertson.

“I have been looking at England’s (improving) penalty record and, in doing so, was surprised to find they didn’t concede any penalties at all during normal play for a 10-year period between 23 March 2008 when Franck Ribéry scored from the spot for France and 27 March 2018 when Lorenzo Insigne did the same for Italy 112 games later. Not only that, Joe Hart played most of those and saved the only penalty he faced in his 75 caps in a friendly against Brazil. It means he ended his international career having never conceded a penalty except during a shootout. Can anyone beat that for the number of games or goalkeeping caps without conceding a penalty at international level?” – Lino Di Lorenzo.

“A few years ago, I wrote a blog on Helmuth Duckadam and his memorable exploits in the 1986 European Cup final. Duckadam saved all four Barcelona penalties in the shootout to help Steaua Bucharest win the trophy. I’m wondering if any other keeper has saved more than four penalties in a shootout? It could be possible I guess if both teams missed a lot of penalties” – Steve Pye.

Mail us your Euros-themed questions or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.